TODAY FROM THAILAND:
POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN BANGKOK:
I recently discovered a fascinating place in BKK called Muang Boran or, Ancient Thailand. I visited it with Nikki, Harley H Hayden and LM. It bills itself as the largest museum in the world. It is over twice as large as Disneyland.
Almost 40 years ago its founder, using ancient texts and drawings, began reconstructing on the site some of Thailand’s destroyed or demolished historical monuments. For example, he rebuilt at Muang Boran the royal palace at Ayutthaya razed by the Burmese in the 18th Century when they burned that city to the ground. Although many of the reconstructions are about one half the size of the originals, others like the Royal Palace (pictured below) are full-sized reproductions. In addition many archeological treasures have been excavated and reassembled at the site. Also, the park boasts a number of magnificent new full sized buildings (e.g. The Temple of Enlightenment below) as well as massive sculptures portraying historical and mythological themes.
The Royal Palace
Temple of Enlightenment
Several traditional towns have also been constructed and an entire fleet of royal barges lie at anchor along one of the canals. They even built one of the largest mountains in central Thailand on which they assembled a temple complex .
The Temple on the Mountain
The village on the river
Pookie says, “check it out.”
For the last few days LM has dined almost exclusively on an assortment of bugs. Yesterday it was fried flying ants and today two-inch large water bugs wrapped in leaves. She sits watching her favorite soap operas plucking the fried bugs from a plastic bag, wrapping them in leaves and devouring them like popcorn. She tries to get me to join her. I did try the flying ants. They tasted like those little bits and shavings of popcorn you scrape up at the bottom of the bag you buy at the movies. I have nothing against eating insects and other arthropods having a long standing affection for escargot and I firmly believe that they represent a significant future caloric and nutritional source of food for the world’s growing population. Nevertheless, I am too old to overcome a lifetime of culinary socialization to try new things to eat now.
It looks like I will be returning to the US sometime in early August. As usual when SWAC and Nikki get together travel arrangements tend to change at a rapid rate. My return by way of Italy and the East Coast got so far as to have reservations made shortly before they were cancelled. We also had planned a trip to Chiang Mai before departure in order for Harley H Hayden to spend a few days with his best and oldest friend Leo who lives there. Plans changed twice, once moments prior to leaving for the airport. The trip was cancelled much to the grave disappointment and annoyance of HHH and Leo, both of whom, for good reason, accused the adults involved of manipulating the result.
The banks always win, part 2.
I few post ago I wrote that in response to the soaring dollar Thai banks have chosen to make up their arbitrage losses through changes in their ATM withdrawal fees. For a few years someone with an American Debit of Credit card could withdraw up to almost $700 with payment of a $5 fee. Immediately after the sudden collapse of the Thai baht following the US Fed announcing the possible end to quantitative easing, Thai banks limited the amount one could withdraw to about $350US and some banks raised their fees for such withdrawal to $6 making the cost for withdrawing $700 now $12. Well, due to I guess competitive pressure, the banks reduced their fee back to $5 per withdrawal, but, alas, agreed to limit the amount that can be withdrawn to about $175. Thus the fees to withdraw $700 has progressed from $5, to $12, to $20; a 400% increase in a month.
HHH, Nikki and SWAC have left BKK and are now in Italy. Although I miss HHH, I feel immense relief at the lifting of the waves of anxiety that have affected me since I arrived back in Thailand.
Jo-Jo’s book report:
I just finished Nesbro’s “The Redeemer.” It deals with events that take place before those in “The Snowman,” the previous book of his that I read. It features, as do all the novels in this series, the screwed up alcoholic Norwegian police detective, Harry Hole (pronounced Ho – Lay). I identify with Harry because he is fucked-up, capable of turning every success into life-altering self destruction, and a confirmed obsessive-depressive who cannot maintain a relationship. He also has undertaken the hopeless task of raising someone else’s son and massively failing at it.
In this novel Nesbro does an interesting thing. He uses changes in points of view to provide the “red herrings” and diversions that appear in most modern mystery novels. In effect he relies on the readers tendency to assume that where there is no obvious indication that there has been a change in the point of view within scene, they are are experienced by a single actor.
We learn in the novel is that the Salvation Army, those uniformed, buttoned up, music playing, individuals who come out at Christmastime and stand beside a hanging iron stew pot ringing a bell, are in reality at times sex-crazed perverts and serial killers. They also hold summer camps where the adolescent future officers in the Army gleefully rape one another in preparation for the inevitable competition they will experience in their efforts to gain power within the organization.
Now, I was sent to summer camp for several years during my early adolescence and the most sex I ever experienced was a brief kiss (my first) with a blond haired girl from the girls’ camp on our the way back from watching the lights of the Village of Ossining dim as the town’s electricity was briefly diverted to Sing Sing prison’s electric chair during that evening’s execution. The only other sex I recall was standing around the campfire with the other boys jerking off into the fire. I assume they did not do this at the Salvation Army camp (or Christian camps in general) because of the number of potential Christian souls that would have gone up in smoke. That always struck me as highly inefficient. If all we do is wade through life so that God and Satan can divvy up the souls at the end with more than half those souls thrown into the fire anyway, why waste the time and effort, especially if it is all predestined? I guess you can say we wee lads at my camp were up to God’s work around those campfires.
Perhaps the primary difference between the camp in the book and my own summer camp experiences was that the former was a Christian religious camp directed to saving the souls of the committed while mine was directed to saving the disadvantage from something even less comprehensible. For example, my camp contained young people dragged out of the slums and ghettoes in the area in the belief that exiling us for two weeks in a somewhat remote sylvan setting would save us from a life of crime, alcoholism and self-abuse. Actually, none of us really understood the forest setting business since we were housed in army tents set up on dirt clearings and never ventured into the surrounding woods for fear of poisonous snakes, giant flesh eating raccoons and The Croton Creeper who our camp counselors assured us at night crept through the forests by the camp looking for little boys to devour.
I do not recall any rapes or violence like those that occurred at the Salvation Army camp in Nesbro’s book. Unless of course, one considers the violence dished out by one counselor or another who every now and then for some reason no one could understand would become overcome with rage and beat the shit out of some luckless camper. One of the first things we learned upon arriving at camp was who were the counselors most likely to exhibit this brand of craziness and how best to avoid them. If one could not avoid them, then it was best to scrupulously follow what ever direction they gave you, even if it ment jumping off the bridge into the stream were the Creeper lived. This reign of terror we later learned supposedly taught us discipline.
There were several classes of boys at the camps. There were those I called the heroes. They were usually larger more athletic boys so comfortable with their own vanity that they rarely troubled anyone. They were immune from threat by the bullies. The counselors liked them also.
There were of course the bullies who preyed on most of the rest of us. It would not be summer camp if there were not a lot of them around.
Among the rest of us, the real or potential victims of the bullies, there were those boys who were socially mature and aware enough to be able to divert the bullies attentions on to others not so accomplished. Later, I learned that this group usually became those who later in life were considered by many to be successful.
Obviously there was also the prey themselves. These were the repeated victims of the bullies. Without them no summer camp would be complete because then there would be no bullies. The prey were usually small or fat and cried a lot and sometimes wet the bed giving the bullies one more reason to humiliate them. They often became scientists or suicides when they grew up.
And finally there were those too socially inept to divert the bully’s attention but who out of fear or some other character defect fought back. Individuals in this group were not liked by anyone, had few friends and were considered troublemakers. About the only thing this last group got out of the camping experience was the knowledge that if for some reason they chose to protect a victim from a bully, they were assured neither the victim nor the bully found their interference welcome. Many of this last group eventually became drug addicts, alcoholics and/or manic depressives.
Note: Nesbro mentions BKK several time as the refuge of the parents of two of the protagonists who fled there after abandoning their positions in the Salvation Army. Nesbro is a regular visitor to Thailand and frequents the petite Bloomsbury of ex-pat mystery writers (Steven Leather, Chris Moore, John Burdett, Colin Piperrel and others) who frequently meet in assorted dives off Sukhumvit. I suspect future novels to focus more on Thailand and the Far-East.
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:
Note: the following continues my series about four governmental agencies that I had some role in developing. I have skipped over the California Coastal Commission because I have dealt with it at length in previous issues of T&T (Although never completed).
C. The California State Coastal Conservancy.
From 1973 through 1975 the California Coastal Commission created by a public initiative to develop a plan to manage development along its coast prepared the California Coastal Plan. I was the Commissions chief legal counsel, and in charge of its interim construction development permit program. In addition, I authored, in whole or in part, several elements of the Coastal Plan, the most pertinent for this article was the Government, Powers and Funding Element. That element developed the proposed governing structure for future protection of the California Coast.
The proposal envisioned a structure composed of three elements; the continuation of the existing regulatory program with substantially increased jurisdiction and with very specific coastal resource protection policies; the passage of a large public bond act in order to purchase lands so significant from an environmental and resource standpoint that even where tightly regulated they still needed to be shielded from normal economic forces, and the creation of a new type of governmental entity to be called the Coastal Conservancy. The plan went to the legislature. Three pieces of legislation were written and passed in 1976, The California Coastal Act, The Parks and Coastal Bond Act and the law that created California Coastal Conservancy.
JOEY’S NEW MYSTERY NOVEL:
ENTER THE DRAGON
Norris: Are you attempting to tell me my duties, sir?
Philip Marlowe: No, just having fun trying to guess what they are.
Back in the car Joe asked me if private investigators mostly find missing people.
I answered, “A detective of private investigator is hired to do a lot of things, but it is rarely if ever is he hired simply to find a missing person unless he is hired to find a missing heir. Most often he is retained to help a lawyer make a case for his client by finding the facts or documents needed. Sometimes he is hired to conduct background checks on potential employees. Sometimes he provides security. Sort of like you do for Martin. He serves court documents, like summons. It is a lot of fact gathering. Its pretty boring actually. It is a job like most jobs. It’s helps if you know what you are doing. It’s even better if you like what you’re doing. But mostly you’re doing it so you can eat, have a roof over your head or afford what ever turns you on.”
“Sounds pretty cynical boss.”
“Look, poor people have friends and family members who go missing. They do not hire private investigators. It often takes a lot of work and time find someone who does not want to be found. The reason why cops do very little more than take in the information when someone reports a missing person, is that a considerable amount of public funds will be spent on what needs to be done to track someone who probably is just off on a fling somewhere. But you, the detective, have got to eat. So, you charge for your time. Only rich people and corporations can pay you enough to allow you to live while you search. It is not cynicism. It’s reality.”
“So is that why you do not have an office like Al’s; to keep your costs low so poor people can afford you, sort of like if Mother Theresa was a cop?”
“No, it’s because I am not very good at it.”
“Sorry boss, I can’t buy that. Fucked up you may be, but I think you probably are pretty good at what you do, if and when you do it.”
“I’m not some athlete or rock star. I don’t need a cheerleader.”
“Ok, What about that cop Mai. She’s pretty hot? Thought I caught something between you two. You doing her?”
“That does not deserve an answer. So what do you think happened to Reilly?”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re the great Viet Cong forward observer and fledging detective, what’s your guess?”
“I thought detectives don’t guess?”
“We’ll make an exception today.”
He thought for a few moments, then said, “We don’t know shit boss. We can’t even guess what if anything has happened with or to anyone. We cannot guess if Holland is really missing or even if the furniture is. The only thing we know is that Reilly is dead. And even there we do not know for sure how he died.”
“So what do we do now?”
“We watch to see when they break for lunch. And, that we will begin at the wake this evening.”
I had him take me back to my loft, told him to dress in something suitable and pick me up later in the afternoon. I decided to begin my watching by calling Mavis and asking her to pick up lunch on the way over. She arrived with some pizza, coke and dope. She wore her formal black leathers that she assured me was suitable for a wake. After lunch, I watched her very closely until Joe Vu returned. During that time I did not observe anything suspicious except for a couple of times I don’t feel like mentioning.
A. What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:
“This ground has been trodden over a million times…. The standard argument that the market forces you to pay people what they are worth to your company is simply wrong. A very good developer can be worth millions of dollars a year to a software company. But she can’t command that much in salary because there are plenty of almost-just-as-good developers (and probably some just-as-good developers) who will work for, say, $150,000 per year. When you buy anything, you compare its value to that of the next best available alternative. Or, at least, that’s what you’re supposed to do…. Now, you might think that only one person in the whole world—let’s call him Ron Johnson—can increase the value of your company by $100 million, and no one else can come close. But unless Ron already has some deep connection to your company (e.g., Steve Jobs returning to Apple—and even in that case, his success was hard to foresee), you are almost certainly wrong. The marginal impact of a CEO is extremely hard to estimate in advance, and any expected value you come up with will be swamped by the standard deviation. The only honest answer is to say that there are a bunch of people who could probably help your company a lot, and that implies that you should hire the one who will do the job for the least money.”
James Kwak: CEO Salary Justification Season Is Open:
B. Testosterone Chronicles:
“According to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), right-wing terrorists perpetrated 145 “ideologically motivated homicide incidents” between 1990 and 2010. In that same period, notes START, “al Qaeda affiliates, al Qaeda-inspired extremists, and secular Arab Nationalists committed 27 homicide incidents in the United States involving 16 perpetrators or groups of perpetrators.”
Last November, West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center published a report on America’s violent far-right extremists. Its numbers were even more startling than START’s. “The consolidated dataset,” writes report author Arie Perliger, “includes information on 4,420 violent incidents that occurred between 1990 and 2012 within U.S. borders, and which caused 670 fatalities and injured 3,053 people.” Perliger also found that the number of far-right attacks had jumped 400% in the first 11 years of the 21st century.”
“Bruh! Del the dunker homosapien was just fuckin around on a skateboard right next to me, and I was like, another black skater HOLY SHIT ITs Del!!”
Olivier Tomas Grandvoinet
“Killing man should be harder than waving a length of pipe in their direction. It should take long enough for one’s conscience to get in the way.”
Howey, Hugh (2012-01-25). Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 – 5) (Silo Saga) (p. 295). Broad Reach Publishing.
This map shows the relative sizes of several countries compared to US states. Bangladesh which is about the same size of Illinois has over 150 million people while the State of Illinois has only about 13 million. Bangladesh, Japan and the Philippines together contain more people than live the entire US. The total population of the countries listed exceeds 1 billion.